James H. Cousins (22 July 1873—20 February 1956) was an Irish writer, poet, teacher and critic about whose book New Ways in English Literature Sri Aurobindo has said that it was “literary criticism which is of the first order, at once discerning and suggestive, criticism which forces us both to see and think.”
In 1921 James Cousin had visited Pondicherry and met Sri Aurobindo. His recollections of meeting Sri Aurobindo has been recorded in his book We Two Together (co-authored by Margaret E. Cousins) published by Ganesh & Co. in 1954.
As the second installment of our special series on Sri Aurobindo, James Cousins’ reminiscence of Sri Aurobindo has been published in the online forum of Overman Foundation.
With warm regards,
James H. Cousins’ Reminiscence of Sri Aurobindo
‘A two-day visit (August 22-23, 1921) to the Yogi-philosopher, Aurobindo Ghosh, gave me an intimate touch with the long tradition of India. Out of political agitation in Bengal, Sri Aurobindo escaped to the French colony of Pondicherry on the coast of south-east India, and settled for a life of exile, devoted to philosophical, literary, and yogic study and practice. His home soon attracted disciples and visitors, and became recognised as an ashrama in the tradition of the rishis of old. My visit arose mainly out of literary interests. I had read with appreciation a small book of Sri Aurobindo’s English verse, and had written an article on it. He had begun a review of my “New Ways in English Literature” with the brief, but sufficing sentence: “It is not often that literary criticism of the first order is produced in India. ‘New ways in English Literature’ is eminently of this class;” and “The Renaissance in India”, which included my preliminary impressions of the revival of Indian painting in Bengal, was made the text of a series of chapters on the same theme by the sage covering a year of the magazine of the Ashrama, “Arya”, and published as a book under the same title as mine.
‘My first visit to Sri Aurobindo, 9 to 10 a.m. was difficult. He left all the talking to me. But my second interview next morning was the other way round: he had presumably taken my measure from my previous day’s talk (a risky thing for even a sage to do), and talked for the allotted hour. What he said is as completely forgotten as what I said the previous day: but I retain a flavour of gentleness and wisdom, breadth of thought, and extent of experience that marked him out as one among millions.’